NewLife Anglican / Pastors Blog / We are here for you – 1 Corinthians 14
14 JULY 2021

We are here for you – 1 Corinthians 14

“So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:12 NIV11)

It seems like 1 Corinthians is a letter written to a church struggling to work out who should be at the centre. Should a message of disgrace and weakness – or strength and impressive speaking? Should I take my freedom and do what I like with it, or should I lay aside my rights for the least and the weakest? Here the battle is whether I will use my spiritual gifts in the gathering for myself or for those around me.

In chapter 12 Paul has reminded the church that everyone has a gift and that each gift is needed for the health and wellbeing of the whole. In chapter 13 he has outlined that the use of these gifts should be governed by love. Now in chapter 14 Paul gets to a specific challenge to seek prophecy above tongues. 

If you’ve never met the idea of the gift of tongues or seen its use in action you might be wondering what it is. Paul defines it pretty well here: 

“For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 14:2) 

And he adds later,

“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.” (1 Corinthians 14:14)

Tongues then are a spoken language unknown to the speaker that overflows from their spirit to the Spirit of God. They are (presumably) what is referred to in chapter 13 as the, ‘tongues of angels.’ Indeed, this might be why the Corinthians are so enamoured with the gift. It appears the Corinthians believe they are transcending the mere physical and becoming like the angels. 

If they are like angels already then the moral constraints of this world do not apply. The physical body matters very little. And, when speaking in tongues,  the rest of the congregation doesn’t matter – so why would anyone hold it back?

Paul is therefore writing to a church whose public gatherings are descending into an cacophony of loud speaking that alienates the outsider and the insiders from one another. Paul does not despise the gift, in fact he says, “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you” (1 Corinthians 14:18). But he believes prophecy is to be preferred in the gathering.

What is Paul’s advice for the church when it comes to ministry in the gathering?

1. Build others up.

“So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:12 & vs 26)

2. Speak intelligibly.

“But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.” (1 Corinthians 14:19)

3. Treasure order and peace.

“The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.” (1 Corinthians 14:32–33)

4. Value the gifts in their right places.

“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” (1 Corinthians 14:39–40)

“Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for Your gifts so freely given. We see that You open communion with You through tongues and we thank you. We see that you build up Your Body the Church through clear instruction and we thank you. Please guide our gatherings so that we play our part well by loving You and by serving those we fellowship with. Amen.”

Grace and peace,


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About The Author

Follower of Jesus, husband, dad, cyclist, photographer, and Lead Pastor. Keen to see new life in Jesus come to every home. Thankful for those partnering in doing that here at NewLife.